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The Four Virtues

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can't practice any other virtue consistently.” ― Maya Angelou
I agree with Maya Angelou.

The key to everything is confidence and courage, whether you are about to climb Everest, swim with sharks, start a new job, perform on stage, begin a relationship or even read Tarot cards!

I have been reading Tarot for decades but have not really given the virtues within the cards much consideration. This is likely to be a personal flaw as not only are they probably fundamental to understanding the nature of Tarot but give illumination to the perception of what it is to be human or certainly what makes an ideal person. Therefore if the archetypes depicted in the Major Arcana are of every known human experience then it makes utmost sense that there should be a card for each one.

Plato and Aristotle both spoke of the four virtues.

That should have been an interesting conversation, Plato with his analogy of spirit and the imagination then with Aristotle’s demand for science and logic. It shows that an archetypal virtue is constant in all its interpretations.

The virtues in Tarot are:
Wisdom, The High Priestess.

Another name for this could be Prudence. A key word for the Priestess is 'intuition.' It is this faculty that truly makes us wise. How many times have we wished that we had not only listened to that intuitive voice but acted on it as well. Our wisdom lies within, it is a trove of treasure that lies beneath the surface, waiting for us to liberate its magnificence into the bright light of day. Prudence is a beautiful word and for me it means careful thought, the need for circumspection. The Priestess’s wisdom is her connectedness to a higher power. She has a capacity for healing others which in turn leads her towards self-exploration. Her wisdom is a meditative wisdom that breaks the chain of fear and anxiety revealing aspirations that are more in keeping with her higher self. She shows us that out of nothing, we create something. It is our wisdom, gleaned from many incarnations that clears the links of ordinary perception.


The Romans had a word for this, Sophrosyne, which means sound mindedness, it is time to have a clear head and think straight. I like this. Temperance tells us that it is time to get it together. If we have become absorbed by the Venusian but Earthly temptations then this card suggests that we reign it in a bit. A modicum of decorum goes a long way. Although this card is about alchemical processes within it really states what it is to be at the beginning of this journey, we can see the two goblets which ask is the liquid running upwards or downwards? This is turning water into wine, the art of moving from the base metal of carnal self, which desires and thoughtlessly consumes into the refined ambience of our spirit, which heals and harmonises the spirit and the body and mind. The virtue here is the purity of motive in seeking higher awareness and co-operating with others but at the same time releasing the self from limiting beliefs. Excess and extremes can warp the progress of walking a path of purpose. It is not a card of resistance but one of affirmation.


Also known as fortitude or courage. Here we see in this card the gumption and nous to face our fears and misgivings.

This is the iron fist in the velvet glove, brains over brawn. Strength is the ability to bridle our passion so that we can funnel it into something constructive and workable. This card is not so much capacity but more about ability. Fortitude shows great potential for transformation. We are reminded that we are not separate from nature, we are nature! Fortitude or strength is about patience, no sudden moves here just a calm approach to the path of life. Strength is about being open to diversity and change, not being phased by the process of letting go but also recognises that challenges and upheaval are necessary milestones on the road to maturity.

Justice or as in the Roman, Justitia.

We are back to our theme of balance and harmony but this time it is about truth, perception and what is workable for the greater good. Nature is Justice’s bearer of truth whether it is the green and leafy or our own spirit in persona. This card is about transaction, decisions and reminds us that if we get the temperature right for ourselves then everything else will fall into place. We are asked to reflect on our concerns and if they deserve head room, worrying can make things seem all out of proportion and a solution is often obscured by anxiety. Justice reminds us that consequence follows action, showing what has become manifest from previous efforts. Integrity and sincerity are upheld by this archetype, universal laws prevail at all times, justice and judgement favour compassion and consciousness in all dealings. Fairness, balance, peace are all core values for Justice. Looking back on past experiences shows imbalances in decision making of the time but which serves and brings the opportunity for correction. Another aspect of this card is grace, it is grace that saves us from the ruins of the abandoned ideal and ushers us towards true potential.

We can see that each of these cards have a bond with each other. They are inextricably linked, one speaks of the other. Maybe you have perceptions and insights to the four virtues, go with what you see and believe and trust in your own virtues.
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